Radical Republicans and Reconstruction
A discussion of the lack of moderation, social issues and economic issues in the South.
This paper concludes that the reason that the Radical Republicans’ plan for reconstruction lacked moderation and consideration of social and economic issues in the South during the Reconstruction Period.
On April 9, 1865 the American Civil War came to an end and one week later on April 15th President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency. During this week the United States entered a period of uncertainty. The Radical Republicans in Congress, a growing force since the 1860 Election, attempted to fill this void to lead the country through the Reconstruction process. The Radical Republicans typically came from New England states or parts of Northern states with a substantial immigrant population from New England. They shared such common factors as a strong grass-root constituency, a strong moral disdain for slavery, and a desire for equality. The Radical Republicans were a single issue group, favoring natural, civil, and political equality for the freedmen. The Radical Republicans went to extremes to achieve complete equality with white citizens for the freedmen. French newspaper writer, Georges Clemenceau, observed that the Radical Republicans, embarked on the abolitionist sea without any clear idea of where their course would lead (Foner, 229). At the end of Reconstruction, the Radical Republicans would view their efforts as a failure. In the words of W.E.B. Du Bois, the slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery (Foner, 602). The Radical Republicans would realize in the end that their goal of total equality for the freedmen could not be achieved, because of the lack of moderation in Congress, unresolved social issues and unaddressed economic issues in the South.